The Beverly Canyon Trail in the South Mountain Park on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell paid a visit to Phoenix and South Mountain Park last weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Mayor Greg Stanton took Jewell on a tour of Encanto Park and South Mountain Park to show where grants from the LWCF have gone. Since the fund was established in 1964 more than $10 million has been awarded to parks and desert preserves in Phoenix. Nearly 40 percent of all Phoenix parks have received funds that have helped build playgrounds, pools, lighting, paths, restrooms, picnic areas and more.

“People in our city love parks,” Stanton said. “Every time we put parks on the ballot it is supported overwhelmingly. We understand how fortunate we are to have so many great parks that continue to add to our quality of life. As mayor I understand it’s my job to keep them clean and in good shape for many generations to enjoy.”

Stanton is part of a coalition of mayors urging Congress to reauthorize the LWCF and fully fund it at $900 million, the level it was established at. The fund has only been fully funded once in its 50-year history.

Jewell’s stop in Phoenix was part of a four-city tour in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina and Indiana. She said she was impressed with the stories of how popular Encanto Park is on Easter Sunday and was pleased to meet local scouts who’ve done projects on South Mountain trails.

“That’s what it’s all about is making the outdoors accessible for our young people,” she said. “Our young people are growing up more urban, more diverse, more disconnected from nature than ever before. They’re so over-scheduled that often times they don’t have time to just play. Your parks in Phoenix are a great illustration of why Phoenix is a livable city. It takes a village to take care of its park and open spaces. That is hard work. It’s really important work.”

More than $210 million from the fund has gone to parks across Arizona. The fund has benefitted the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park and many more. South Mountain Park was among the first projects in the state to receive a grant from the fund in 1966.

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